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Reflections & Change

I received the annual reminder from my mom to update my blog. She said, “And please, make it cheery!” So here goes….. Reflecting on 2021 which saw our foray into chicken ownership through. What an adventure! My dear readers, I have been remiss and have not properly updated you. We are the owners of five new Pandemic Pets. We pass around the coveted title of “Chicken Momma,” argue over who loves them best, and whether or not we can market chicken poop as dog treats. We have fresh eggs every day, and the dogs are taking their job of chasing the foxes away seriously, even the ridiculous littlest dog in the yellow sweater. While we are not experts, the chicken project saw only one fatality, and that is what success looks like in the realm of chickens.

Amelia working hard!
Ridiculous consumer of processed chicken feed.

In 2021 I recommitted to my flute. I recently completed Hilary Hahn’s #100daysofpractice and challenged myself to practice the flute for 100 days straight. (In the interest of full disclosure, I completed 94/100.) On a trip to Boston, I toured the William S. Haynes flute factory, the oldest flute makers in the United States. I geeked out on the physics of sound and tried gold vs. silver, handmade vs. modern production, and woke up a level of music I thought dormant. The need to connect with my roots as a musician and to find beauty and joy during the slog of the pandemic, to break up the daily grind that seemed lately a constant chore, was intense. I realize how great a gift music is, and how much I need it. In 2021, I walked the streets of DC with Basil, my college flute professor, while he casually talked about Lenny (Bernstein, of course!), Dorati, Rostropovich and other greats. If I had been playing a game of “Six Degrees of Separation,” I would have been close to winning, hanging out with the music greats of our time. The pull toward my art centered me in the last year and I am ever so grateful for that. I am in the best musical shape I have ever been in my life! (Kindly do not ask me about exercise.) My breathing is centered, I am acutely aware of my body while playing, silencing the inner critic, and returning to fundamentals which have helped me grow by leaps and bounds. I found old photos, old recordings, and pulled together a Soundcloud account, if you care to listen: https://soundcloud.com/user-765234673.

Playing in the orchestra, 2015.

In 2021 Secondo graduated from high school and went off to college. Can you imagine that littlest baby boy all grown up? Thank God I have the third one, only in fourth grade, preventing an empty nest. That is for the birds….!

Free range chicken time.

If 2021 was my mid-life crises, then I’ll take it, chickens and all. Just last week I resigned my job with Community Forklift and will walk through a door, new adventure waiting, and work for the Folger Shakespeare Library. I feel that pull toward art even more and am over the moon about this opportunity. I wonder what 2022 will bring? I know one thing, it will not be a slog, and I will choose to intentionally feel every day as a gift full of wonder (perhaps a few spelling tests and chicken poop) and more art. Always more art.

Happy New Year and I wish you all the very best in 2022!

©copyright Mariam d’Eustachio at Simply Turquoise 2022.

Fresh eggs!

Grief and Gardening Tips

I did not know it was possible to actually die of a broken heart, and yet my neighbor Kathleen has done just that. She just laid down in the bed and didn’t get up again. Her heart stopped.

Sometimes there is a moment in time, or an experience that will bond people together forever, like a lens peering into the emotions of another human, so real and vulnerable that their pain is your pain, a kind of empathy squared. One of those moments came the night Kathleen spent with my husband. That night, they drove my brother to rehab, and she swore the next time she would bring a toothbrush.

Kathleen knew a good place and could get my brother a spot, just as soon as he sobered up… Kathleen was in recovery herself and former addicts come with a streak of MUST GIVE BACK to society because they’ve pissed on too many lawns and done their fair share of wreaking havoc that there is an intense debt, a hole they have to fill, that only driving people to rehab and checking on your dog after an earthquake, can fill. And that brother of mine? 10 years later he has found sobriety.

I will never know the depths of sorrow that Kathleen felt after losing both of her sons to the opioid epidemic, but she never failed to make me laugh, ever. Damn she was funny.

For example, I made Spanikopita for her after a funeral and received a text a few weeks later….. “Just want you to know I refrained from sending you a picture of me rolling around naked in your spinach pie….” And I knew she was alright, at least for a moment.

When I first moved back to Maryland my new puppy chose her feet to pee on, and so she wore Crocs. Drawn together by toddlers and obligations, plants and old junk, she was the one who introduced me to Community Forklift. Kathleen said, “You will never believe this place…. follow me over the railroad tracks and down to the river….” and I thought, “This is it. She’s lost her mind.” But there it was, the place where I would work for the next seven years (and counting).

Recently Kathleen sent me some gardening tips, which I felt I should share, being as it’s springtime and this is a home sort of blog:

  • If you have greased your shepherd’s hooks with Vaseline to keep the squirrels off the suet cakes, it is important to remember you have done this. That way, you don’t grab it, pull and have your hand fly off and hit you in the face. It can cause a nosebleed.
  • When custom mixing soils for a particular plant in high winds, do not stand downwind and put the lightest soil in first. This will keep you from becoming covered in peat moss.
  • If you decide to just plop your butt on the ground while weeding, it is important to notice if it’s a holly tree. Self explanatory.

The tears sliding down my cheeks when I found out she had passed away made me feel guilty and a little bit selfish. Kathleen was suffering, and there was no amount of Spanikopita or cookies that would take it away. Even Regina smiled and said, “Well mom, she is with her boys now.” For once, I didn’t correct her, because maybe Regina is right. Who am I to say?

©copyright Mariam d’Eustachio at Simply Turquoise 2021.

The Community Garden

I write this post with an infection in my hand, a splinter that took two days and a fly-by-night surgical operation to remove, and even poison ivy.

The Community Garden!

The Garden was planted by a well-known horticulturalist and somehow I inherited this potential…. thing of beauty. I have wrestled with it over the years, referred to it as “The Wild Kingdom” and been fired by Pedro, my gardener. Pedro finally wised up and left me.

 The path.

But this time, I had help! My friends came from as far away as New Jersey and California and from as close as next door, somehow always as I was just finishing up. Demanding a little bit more and a few more hours. Prima said to me, “Mom he (the horticulturalist designer) is going to make a gardener of you yet!” Stewart said, “other people would have paid Pedro to rip it out and put in grass, but not you…. you have restored it.”

The climbing hydrangea in full bloom!

The climbing hydrangea in full bloom!

And it’s true. I finally feel like it’s becoming mine, morphing into a cottage garden like the one of my dreams, admittedly with a bit more elbow grease. I can sit outside and watch the fireflies and appreciate the work, like a runner’s high, but with more pollen.

 The swing came with the Garden.

In spite of all the injured body parts and sore muscles, I’m proud of it. It’s finally become My Wild Kingdom. Thank you my friends for helping me see what it could be and coming to the rescue.

The fig tree, still alive and well.

© Mariam d’Eustachio at Simply Turquoise 2019.

Fresh From the Garden!

I had a little baggie in my freezer with about 10 harmless-looking little peppers in it. My friend from Trinidad gave them to me last year, fresh from the garden. At the time she warned me they were hot, but I forgot.

Beware those island peppers, oh my. I wish I had a picture of those little peppers, if only for specimen identification later.

The tomatoes had a late run of productivity and were hanging green on the vines. Prima was anxious to use them, not wanting to let any of her hard work gardening go to waste.

Fresh from the garden.

Fresh salsa from the garden.

I modified this recipe, Green Tomato Salsa Verde from freshpreserving.com. It is really quite tasty, even if only people from Texas are able to eat it. This is a great way to use up the last of summer’s fresh produce.

Cooking and sneezing.

Cooking and sneezing.

Packed with flavor.

Packed with flavor.

Here’s a hint: if you start sneezing uncontrollably while making salsa, ease up on the peppers. If you went overboard, then add a little sugar or honey and extra citrus. I added the juice from two additional limes and a tablespoon of honey and was able to bring the heat down to merely tearing up instead of sneezing.

Green tomato salsa verde.

Yum!

Now, it is perfect.

© copyright 2014 Mariam d’Eustachio at Simply Turquoise.